HC Deb 28 February 1963 vol 672 cc1433-6
21. Mr. Spriggs

asked the Minister of Education how many young teachers will be affected by his decision to reject the Burnham Committee's recent award; and what representations he has received about it.

Sir E. Boyle

The number of teachers, both young and old, who would be immediately affected would depend on how the Burnham Committee decided to modify its proposals in the light of the general principles which I outlined in my letter to the Chairman. Some younger teachers would receive smaller increases on the basic scale, but some of them could benefit from improvements in above-scale payments. Future prospects for all teachers who stayed in teaching would be improved.

I have received many letters both for and against the views I have expressed, but so far no formal representations.

Mr. Spriggs

Is the Minister aware that his action has been very detrimental to the matter of teacher supply and our efforts to overcome oversized classes and that his interference with the machinery of negotiation is yet another example of Government interference with machinery which they themselves are responsible for setting up? Their action will destroy all confidence in this machinery and will affect any hope of unity in the teaching profession.

Sir E. Boyle

I dealt fully with this matter last Thursday. I do not want to say very much more this afternoon, only the day before the Burnham Committee is due to meet tomorrow to consider my letter to the Chairman. I would, however, remind the hon. Gentleman of one sentence of my letter to the Chairman, which said: I believe that the expansion of the profession, as well as the esteem in which it is held and thus its attraction for potential recruits of high quality, depends quite as much on the opportunities it offers of advancement for the most able, best qualified and most ambitious of its members as on the level at which the more junior are paid. Incidentally, payments for higher qualifications and longer training and greater responsibility are not limited to any small minority of the teaching profession. Rather more than half of all the teachers get one or more of them.

Mr. Willey

As the Minister has had time to reflect, will he consider, since this matter will be considered tomorrow, withdrawing his intervention? Does he realise that this very ill-timed intervention has created the impression that it is his purpose to humiliate and divide this profession?

Sir E. Boyle

Certainly not. I am glad to think that the hon. Gentleman's views are not shared by a very large section of informed public opinion in Britain, including some very sensible leading articles in all sections of the daily Press. I did not prescribe in detail what the revised proposals should be. I only indicated in general terms, after having given the matter considerable thought, the kind of modified pattern which I thought able to approve. I have written my letter and I must take my stand on it.

22. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Education what reply he has received from the Chairman of the Burnham Committee to his letter of 20th February.

Sir E. Boyle

None, Sir.

Mrs. Castle

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that he has put the Chairman of the Burnham Committee in a quite impossible position? What is the use of having the Burnham Committee if the Minister is going to step in and interfere with its conclusions as to the best way to distribute salary increases? What does he intend to do if tomorrow the Burnham Committee decides to stand by its proposals, as it is perfectly entitled to do as the accredited and recognised negotiating machinery for the profession?

Sir E. Boyle

I am not going to answer the hypothetical question which the hon. Lady asked. I answered the first part of her supplementary question fully last Thursday. Section 89 of the Act leaves it open to me to reject proposals if I so wish on whatever grounds seem to me to be reasonable. It seemed to me that, once it became clear that this provisional agreement would be ratified, it would have been wrong for me to delay intervening; I wanted teachers to have their pay increase, on lines which I could approve, on 1st April. With regard to the Chairman of the Burnham Committee, I think it is a funny state of affairs if one is told that one has put a chairman in an impossible position by communicating with him as chairman. It seemed to me the obvious thing to do. I have told the Chairman in my letter that I shall most certainly meet the whole Burnham Committee if it thinks that this will help.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

With regard to so-called interference with the Burnham Committee, has not the person who pays 55 per cent. of the bill some right to express his views?

Sir E. Boyle

I said last week to the House that I do not believe that any Minister of Education can disengage from consideration of the structure of teachers' salaries, which may affect teacher supply and the staffing of the schools for which I am charged with a public responsibility.

Mr. Holt

Many hon. Members would not disagree with the last sentence expressed by the Minister. Can he make one thing absolutely plain? Prior to 20th February, was the Burnham Committee aware in any detail of his views on the salary structure?

Sir E. Boyle

No, Sir. There was no constitutional machinery whereby I could make it aware of my views before that date. At the moment, there is no constitutional provision whereby I can officially communicate my views to the Burnham Committee before an agreement is reached.

Mr. Mendelson

Why does the Minister continue to argue as though he wishes to give the impression that he is the only one interested in giving proper awards to the more mature members of the teaching profession? Is not the real issue that most teachers feel with regard to this award that it would be advantageous and fair to give the greatest encouragement to the new entrants to the profession? Is not the way out to increase the sum of money available to a figure between the two figures which have been argued about so that the policy which he desires and the policy which the profession desires can be implemented?

Sir E. Boyle

I made my views on the amount of money clear in my letter to the Chairman. I hope that I have never suggested that I was the only person who felt concern in this matter. I pointed out to the House that I had a special responsibility here.